Dedicated source of operating funds remains a key challenge
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2010
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RICHMOND & WASHINGTON, D.C. – The new Amtrak Virginia train on the Lynchburg route has exceeded its annual performance targets in the first six months of operation. The route provides a daily one-seat ride as far north as Boston from Lynchburg in the I-81/Route 29 corridor.
The latest ridership data for March 2010 indicates that the Lynchburg train now exceeds the annual ridership goal of 51,000 with 55,025 passengers during the first six months of operation. The service also exceeded the annual revenue goal of $2,580,000 by generating $2,839,448 in revenue.
The service’s monthly ridership began at 8,585 in October 2009 and ended the first six months of operation at 11,365 in March 2010, the highest monthly ridership to-date. The average monthly ridership has been 9,171 over the six month period. While these results are promising, there are many factors that can influence ridership, such as additions/changes in service, seasonal changes, service interruptions, on-time performance, fuel prices and unemployment levels.
“Today’s surplus in operating funds for the Lynchburg train will help fund operating shortfalls over the next three years of demonstration service,” said Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) Director Thelma Drake. “It’s important to remember that passenger rail ridership fluctuates, and we still have a long way to go before the end of the three-year period.”
The Lynchburg train has consistently exceeded its monthly performance targets since service began in October 2009. The top two stations in boardings and alightings on this route as of March 2010 are Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Every station along the route has seen significant increases in passenger traffic compared to the previous year, with highest growth at the Lynchburg station at 68 percent, followed by the Culpeper station at 40 percent year-to-date growth.
“The Lynchburg service is a great example of how Amtrak can work successfully with a state partner to meet a need for intrastate rail service,” said Jay McArthur, principal officer in Amtrak’s Policy & Development Department. “Our goal is to provide central Virginia with a transportation alternative, and we’re encouraged by the enthusiasm Virginians have shown during the first six months of operation.”
More passenger traffic means more visitors and economic benefits for the Commonwealth, and Amtrak Virginia is partnering with The Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote tourism and train travel in Virginia. New travel packages are available with significant discounts on lodging and local attractions in the Charlottesville and Lynchburg regions when you travel with Amtrak. See our Hot Deals page for details: http://www.amtrakvirginia.com/HotDeals.aspx.
“The success of the new Amtrak route to Lynchburg proves that good things happen when you connect people to great destinations via rail,” said Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “You step off the train right into the heart of central Virginia with a wealth of experiences that you and your family can discover and enjoy together.”
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has contracted with Amtrak to bring additional passenger rail service to Virginia in the I-95 and I-81 corridors over a three-year demonstration period. The agreement includes the new Lynchburg train and a new train between Richmond and the Northeast Corridor to be launched this summer.
If the service is successful, and if additional funding becomes available, the Lynchburg train could be extended to Roanoke and the Richmond train could be extended to Norfolk to provide one-seat travel from Southwest Virginia and Hampton Roads as far north as Boston.
Demonstration projects help Virginia determine the viability of new transportation choices. After the demonstration period, sufficient performance data will be available to determine whether the service should continue on a more permanent basis.
A key challenge facing the new service is the availability of operating funds. Virginia has no dedicated source of state rail operating funds today. Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly authorized up to $6 million in Rail Enhancement funds to support operating costs in FY 2011, but there is no funding identified beyond FY 2011.
Virginia Senator Yvonne Miller sponsored SJ63, which directs DRPT to evaluate potential state operating fund sources and report back to the General Assembly before the beginning of the 2011 session. The report will provide benchmarking information about passenger rail funding in other states and other data that the General Assembly will need to make important decisions about the future of passenger rail service in Virginia.
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